I’ve stayed away from the Stay-at-Home Mom vs. Working Mom discussions.

They simply don’t interest me.

Even though I’ve been an at-home mama from the moment my firstborn arrived, I get turned off by memes on Facebook that are “rah rah rah Stay-at-Home / ‘Full-time’ Moms (both labels sound off to me).

You know, those posts about how being a mom is the hardest job in the world and how at-home mamas’ tasks as chef, chauffeur, entertainer, consultant, if assigned a $ amount per task, would command a six figure salary.

I prefer “At-Home Mama.” Dropping the “stay” makes it more true for my experience.

Yesterday, my well-meaning working mom neighbor paid me a “compliment.”

She always asks, “How are the kids?” and wonders how I can wrangle the both of them as she finds even one toddler to be a handful.

I like her.

So I know she didn’t intend to give me a small jellyfish sting when she said, “People think that just staying at home is easy but I’m telling you, I know that just staying at home is not always easy. It’s a hard job. I have two jobs myself. I work at my job then come home and work at home, taking care of my baby.”

Reminded me of when working moms say, “Well when I have a sleepless night, *I* have to go to work the next day!”

As much as I don’t like the tired old debates, I do see why at-home mamas feel compelled to toot their own horns. To try to glean some respect and appreciation even though you won’t really understand.

I didn’t like her repeat use of the word “just.” I struggle with the “just” myself in a society where multi-tasking and being too busy is revered. I no longer bow down to multi-tasking because we don’t know what lurks beneath. What is the hidden cost of all that juggling? I’m sure it’s high.

Neighbor went on to share that she needs a break so she’s going to have brunch with girlfriends and run errands to have the day all to herself. I have to confess that as much as I abhor the SAHM v. working mom judgments, I found myself thinking, “Yo, it’s Sunday. You away from your child at least five days a week, so what you yearning to take a break from exactly?” I thought this KNOWING that when I worked outside the home, I was spent from my work week by the time Friday rolled around, all that commuting on the subway and office politics.

I knew that this mama can have whatever the hell break she craves but the martyr within sized her up against me, myself and I, a mama who generally spends seven days a week with her kids, all day, everyday (though I’m working on this as martyrs die before their time).

But for a moment, I found myself judging as a reflex to her earlier statements about “just staying at home” and “I have two jobs.”

Tooting thy own horn is a defense mechanism to society viewing you, subconsciously or very consciously, as Less Than.

I remember speed-strolling with Micah when he was an infant when I had to say, “Excuse me, can we please get by?” to a sidewalk hog.

After she grudgingly let me by, she said loudly, “You see her? She ain’t got nowhere to go! Rushing with nowhere to go!” Of course, as rushed as I was, I made time for a quick U-turn to drop some knowledge.

She had immediately assumed that because I was strolling with my infant, I ain’t got nowhere to be. Or if I did, it wasn’t that important, “important” in the worldly sense. If I were wearing my Theory slacks, Banana Republic blouse, heels, thumbtyping frantically on my Blackberry, carrying something akin to a briefcase, my rushing would surely be justified because clearly I have an office to get to.

But no, I am JUST a mom.

just a mom, cleaning out her car

just a mom cleaning out her car

The underbelly of the age old Mommy Wars is about worth. Who is more worthy? Society answers that it’s the multi-taskers and income-earners.

Tonight, I didn’t want to fall into the trap of trying to “rest” at home once Kevin walked through the door because it is straight up the opposite of rest when the kids know that I am not really gone, just tucked away in the bedroom. They even knock frantically like an episode of “Cops.” I have to leave the house.

I ran to my gym with my earbuds in.

I caught a glimpse of the same neighbor mama once I crossed the street. She was just standing on the street, sipping on a large Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee, looking weary from a long Monday.

We looked at each other for a moment, smiling, nodding our heads. I waved as I ran by.

At first, I speed-judged again! “Why isn’t homegirl rushing to be with her baby she’s been away from ’til 7 pm!?” Then I realized I have no idea what her day was like, just like she has no idea what mine was like. She was standing there on that busy street, under that awning, decompressing before she went home to her family.

I realized why I loathe the tired old debate about which type of mama is more of a superhero. Rarely have I seen a balanced debate because both sides are too busy passionately defending their choices without considering the perks of both sides.

Too busy demanding to be heard and understood, like quarreling spouses.

As an at-home mama, I confess that I DO have down time when their naps overlap. Down time to sneak in a blog post or crack my toe knuckles as I go over my to-do list until one of them emerges. But then again, working moms can also zone out at their offices and phone it in from time to time, sitting in front of the Internet (with the exception of some jobs like surgeons – I pray that you never phone it in). I was part of the workforce for years to know that some days you’re getting paid to sit on your butt in your cubicle.

Making judgments or rather, forming “impressions,” is part of being human. But we can work on gifting each other with grace, cutting each other a break.

I enjoyed the micro-moment from tonight, as I ran by that fellow mama. My fleeing from my beloved rugrats as she braced herself for what awaited her at home.

We just trying our best.

5 thoughts on ““Just”

  1. Hi Jihee! I miss you. Was just thinking about you last night and wondering if we’ll ever get the chance to catch up in person…

  2. You done come to such a good, gracious and balanced conclusion. I love it. And your pic of the “cleaning out your car” … das aumph. I have done the same, but to look at that in all it’s rawness and no more space to hang one more thang on yo’ body, ‘cept maybe yo’ head/ neck. *sigh* *big sigh* I have to say that you are in a very “physical” chapter of mothering and I want to say that it won’t always be that way. Hang in there. One day, the boys will be carrying all the heavy stuff for their momma.

  3. Love this post! As an at-home-mom, I can totally relate. These days I find myself tooting my own horn by saying I’m a stay-at-home-mom-of-two, on my blog, a stay-at-home-mom-of-two-one-with-special-needs. My life is crazy, my minivan is even crazier, but at the end of the day, I’m thankful I get to spend time with my kiddos even though I find myself running away…to the gym. (so fun!) Oh and that knocking on the door like “Cops”— I hear ya, sister, I hear ya. *sigh.

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